NASHVILLE - Pat Gillick can't feel real comfortable at the moment.
The Phillies need more pitching and so far they haven't found it. Could help be near?
Gillick said he is optimistic that the Phillies could make a move before the winter meetings conclude Thursday afternoon after the Rule 5 Draft at the Opryland Hotel.
"There's a possibility we might do something," the general manager said. "I can't say it's a sure thing, but it's a possibility."
The Phillies have interest in free-agent righthander Kris Benson, according to a team source, but they want to see him throw first. They are expected to watch him later this month to make sure he has fully recovered from shoulder surgery, which forced him to miss the entire 2007 season.
The Phillies think Benson is the most capable of bouncing back from a group of injured pitchers that include Bartolo Colon, Jason Jennings, Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber.
Gillick said the Phillies had no interest in Garcia or Lieber, but would not rule out Colon, Jennings or Benson. The Phillies clearly have some interest in Benson. They also have contacted Colon's agent.
Gillick maintains the Phillies' top priority is pitching - both in the rotation and bullpen - although last month he denied a report that the Phillies planned to make a play for free-agent third baseman Mike Lowell then made a four-year offer a few days later. So word that the Texas Rangers might be looking to deal third baseman Hank Blalock can't totally be dismissed, although the Phillies are reluctant to trade top prospects like Carlos Carrasco and Josh Outman and Gillick said finding position-player help has been pushed to the side to accommodate their need for pitching.
But there's no question the Phillies need help in their rotation.
They have little depth there. They currently have Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton. Hamels has an extensive history of injuries, Moyer had a 5.65 ERA from May 14 through the rest of the season, Eaton's injured right shoulder remains a question mark and Kendrick has made just 20 starts in the big leagues.
If one of those pitchers is lost for an extended period of time, the Phillies suddenly turn to J.D. Durbin or Fabio Castro.
Kyle Lohse and Carlos Silva remain on the market, but Gillick said "we'd go more than two years on some guys, but you get into four and five we've got a little bit of a problem with that." Lohse and Silva are seeking long-term deals, and although the Phillies remain in contact with Lohse's agent, Scott Boras, it's more likely because Boras wants to keep as many teams as possible interested in his client.
The Phillies had targeted lefthander Randy Wolf, who just agreed to a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres. Gillick seemed perturbed with the way things evolved with Wolf.
Gillick was asked if it is tough to lure pitchers to Citizens Bank Park because of its hitter-friendly reputation.
"No," he said. "It might with Randy Wolf. He's the only guy who's ever voiced some concern. But I haven't had anybody else voice some concern about the ballpark. He always voiced concern about it, yeah. I talked to him last year and I talked to him this year, and I think he always makes some remarks about the park, which are really quite unfounded, I think.
"It was a blessing in disguise. We went after him a couple of times. It didn't work out last year, and it didn't work out this year. So it's pretty evident that he doesn't want to play for our team. If somebody doesn't want to play and be part of the team then maybe it's better he plays someplace else."
Wolf also was one of those free-agent pitchers coming off injuries. Gillick said Wolf was at the top of that list because they were comfortable with his medical reports.
"In that group, Randy was probably the best bet, the best chance, the best one," Gillick said.
Benson could be No. 2 on that list.
So who else is left? The Phillies aren't expected to make a play for any of the stud pitchers who could be available via trade - Johan Santana, Dontrelle Willis, Erik Bedard, Dan Haren or Joe Blanton - because it would require too much top talent in return, and the Phillies don't have much to give. Livan Hernandez does not seem to be high on their list. Pitchers like Anthony Reyes or Julian Tavarez could be had in a trade.